It’s almost impossible to predict the future. But it’s also unnecessary, because most people are living in the past. All you have to do is see the present before everyone else does.
That really is a nice quote, though.
You're just gonna have to be the sort of person for whom solving the wave equation of the hydrogen atom is a juicy project.
That's a nice quote. I'm working on a handbook for how to self-study. Mind if I (tentatively) use it?
6. Treat the problem of measurement with the same care you treat the intervention. Much of rationality training will have its origins in introspection and intuitive inference. Figuring out what effects your hypothesis ought to predict, precisely enough to come up with a solid form of measurement, might be a lot harder than designing an intervention. Just because you don't have a good way to measure what you're doing doesn't mean it has "no evidence." But if you can find a way to measure, that can be very powerful.
This is a great idea. I find it not impossible that if you build an arduino watch implementing this, that you could make a nice little business patenting (?) and selling them. I'm sure many people would say "why not just learn to enjoy being a little early?" But for whatever reason, some people just don't have much success with that. A gadget that corrected their problem might do just the trick.
Many of the coolest and most useful activities for learning are sealed off from non-professionals, or at least are expensive and time confusing to obtain certification or access. Usually for good reason.
This seems like a fundamental dilemma of the role of school. To make students directly see what’s cool about different subjects, they need lots of hands-on experience. But the vast majority of their time, and most of their evaluation prior to grad school, comes from book work. Access to hands-on projects and a sense of freedom and agency is limited at best.... (read more)
Always enjoying your thoughts. Thanks chemslug. My expectation is that there are more safe and tractable micro-projects out there than the average student takes for granted. But I am also raising these questions to confirm a suspicion I have: that despite our love for the idea of "learning by doing," there are many disciplines where a long slog of paper-based learning, punctuated by a few carefully regulated experiments, has to precede any kind of creative or independent hands-on activity.
LessWrong's steeped in "move fast and break things" Silicon Valley c... (read more)
These are great ideas, thanks! I like both the specific suggestions and the idea of contacting societies popularizing the subjects. I hadn't thought of that idea.
Agreed that there are real issues with doing "interesting" chemistry at home. I do think that this is one area where the idea that students can motivate themselves by finding an "applied" project to work on might not be the best advice.
Here's another way of stating the exercise:
Those are nice examples/test cases!
Here's what I think is the right way to understand what's going on in the phone case. Let's say you're looking for an ice cream stand in a park.
Your brain takes input from the phone and your eyeballs. It synthesizes them, along with memories and other sense data, into a prediction about where you should walk and what you should look at in order to find the ice cream stand. Based on that mental synthesis, it sends outputs to your body, causing you to walk/read/look around.
In this conception, there's ultimately only "search... (read more)
Makes perfect sense! Going into scientific research, there's often kind of a chicken-and-egg problem. You know that knowing biochemistry, differential equations, immunology etc. would be useful somehow, eventually, if you became familiar with these subjects. You do have a general interest in these topics, since they're directly relevant to becoming, say, a biologist. But most of your learning along the way won't be directly related to a project that directly has real, applied value to your own life or the lives of others. That comes later. So figuring out ... (read more)
Agreed. I think of this as the problem of "source selection." C.f. The Best Textbooks on Every Subject if you haven't checked that out, though I don't know if I agree with the recommendations or this anecdotal approach to the problem.
Good thoughts. I agree that having a convenient practical application is very nice. Programming is lovely, because even a complete novice can make things that feel interesting to them with just a few pieces of basic knowledge.
By contrast, there's a fair bit of precursor knowledge required to figure out how to apply, say, differential equations to a biological modeling problem. Even though chemistry is in theory practical, the danger, regulation, and expense of setting up a laboratory to mess around in makes practical projects a less appealing way to learn ... (read more)
It seems to me like search in territory (SIT) and search in map (SIM) are matters of degree, not kind. So they can potentially be quantified. They also have to do with transduction from one form of information to another.
For example, with the SIT example, you’re transducing information from scale balance and rock position into and out of brain states. With the SIM example, you transducer information from your brain, into a pre-designed spreadsheet, then from scale balance and rock position into your brain, into a spreadsheet, and then back to rock position.
It doesn’t seem like there’s a hard distinction between the two from that perspective? Not sure.
From Wikipedia: "Disulfiram does not reduce alcohol cravings, so a major problem associated with this drug is extremely poor compliance. Methods to improve compliance include subdermal implants, which release the drug continuously over a period of up to 12 weeks, and supervised administration practices, for example, having the drug regularly administered by one's spouse."
My guess is that for a strategy like this to work better, you'd need the pain to come right away, strong enough to build an immediate association between alcohol and suffering. Instead, "a... (read more)
Hi weathersystems, I like this idea. I have a few reactions to it.
First, it sounds like to be a success, you just need to find one other person to collaborate with. If you can find that person, go for it!
Secondly, if your goal is to get more people interested and more questions submitted, I think it's worth taking more time to have individual conversations with specific people about topics you think they'd be interested in collaborating on based on their post history. Sussing out their level of interest, availability, and what sort of collaborative partner... (read more)
That's a good point. I picked the word "oath" intuitively, and I can try to articulate why.
First, "policy" feels more detached and state-ish than I wanted. I wanted a word that conveyed some emotional depth and a spark of human connection.
Also, "policy" has the implication of being explicit in its details, like a law. By contrast, an oath is about building credibility without being specific about what actions to take. Here's a sample from the Hippocratic Oath:
I’d prefer WAY BIG
Pet peeve: the phrase "nearly infinite."
Adam Zerner’s recent question is a good example of a “this isn’t working” followed by analysis of the causes. Emotion is often a motivator for meta conversation in offline relationships. In online settings like LW, we might tend to start by imagining what sort of interactions we think are possible and missing, and then inferring the reason for their absence and experimenting with solutions.
Keeping those analyses general and succinct seems like the right way to go. I wouldn’t want to have a public discussion about my feelings about a specific other blogger. But trying to find explanations for general behavior online seems like world modeling, not navel gazing.
Here's a description of the Hamming question.
Mathematician Richard Hamming used to ask scientists in other fields "What are the most important problems in your field?" partly so he could troll them by asking "Why aren't you working on them?" and partly because getting asked this question is really useful for focusing people's attention on what matters.
I'm not trying to troll anybody. The three questions at the top of the OP are what you'd answer to articulate your Hamming problem, as you've done here. What is the most important problem you face in your lif... (read more)
I grew up in poverty, so I've been a client of the Public System from birth. What this means is that I've been coordinating with all kinds of professionals to attempt to meet my needs for a long time. Like most domains/games/systems, the longer you are involved in/with them, the more you understand the limitations and problems of them. This is the case for me in trying to get out of poverty and homelessness.
So while I can appreciate the concern for my safety, I can assure you I've been connecting with health professionals and their support systems fo... (read more)
Great, do you have time this week for a ~30 minute chat? :)
Thanks for linking this in to the conversation.
I like the idea of a standard LW OoR, and maybe there could be several. Optimally it would be as convenient as possible to include one.
The oath of reply is meant as a prior-increaser for receiving a reply specifically for an audience aiming for good faith dialog. So any assumptions or modifications needed to specify the sort of conversation you’re looking to have are appropriate. Much of this needs to be implicit, as we’re all busy people and don’t need 10 pages of legal boilerplate for this stuff.
There are ways to do a “message received, thanks” in a few short words. Emojis are annoying in formal settings and convey much less than even just a single short sentence.
Primarily real reputation, but interested in both aspects!
Interesting! Can you give me some background on where those ideas come from? I haven’t specifically studied cancer biology yet so I don’t know if this is something an intro textbook on the subject would cover, or whether they’re to some extent your original ideas?
What I wrote isn't very original.
The fact that immune function is worse in older people is standard knowledge and johnswentworth wrote a post about the thesis that the thymus might be a central factor here.
The fact that cancers have to mutate to activate telomerase production to be able to constantly replicate seems to me like a cancer 101 thing. There might be some cancers that happen in stem cells that actually produce telomerase naturally but it's necessary for normal cells.
A decade ago, cancer vaccines were targeting single targets an... (read more)
Ah, what I mean is that if you specifically ask a person to discuss a topic, or bring it up clearly showing you want to discuss it with them, they’re likely to take you up on it in an organic conversation. Also, if you specifically ask a friend to give you feedback on a piece of writing, making it clear it would mean a lot to you, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. Most people I know seem happy to help.
But yeah, just sending a friend a link to a post isn’t going to increase the response rate too much.
Not the clearest language, sorry. Slightly more specifically, I mean that a lot of the conversation is either about our own conversations, conversational dynamics generally, or conversation dynamics between ourselves and family/friends or between people we know and others.
I don’t have a confident number to put on it. Between 10-50% perhaps? Which feels huge to me.
Thanks for that great response, very in line with my own thinking!
gjm expresses it well! I think you’re right that some comments are in a special category of clearly not needing a reply. Maybe there’s a way to briefly acknowledge that the comment has been seen and considered, however.
So is your personal Hamming problem getting into a better environment for study? If so, what would be your first step? Are you working on it? And if not, why not?
You're clearly in a difficult situation, so know that the reason I ask those questions is because that's the theme of this discussion. There is no implicit criticism here. This is just a space to explore these questions, whatever the problems each individual person is facing.
Here it is! Thanks for the inspiration.
It also makes me think about an idea I've always had: Blog Buddies. Alice is a blogger who is interested in having a lot of discussion and constructive criticism on her posts. So is Bob. And Carol. And Dave. They can all get together, form a group, and read + critique each others posts. Seems like it scratches an itch. I've thought about it as a startup idea, but I could see it making sense more narrowly on LessWrong.
Yeah, this sounds like a book club, except where the participants are also the authors. I'll bet that there are some groups of authors who do... (read more)
I'm having trouble understanding what you mean here. Would you mind explaining this differently?
You're right, that was convoluted :)
Having a prior that your conversation partner will reply motivates commenting. When both partners have that prior, they'll continue their conversation, as we're doing here. Figuring out how to generate that prior in both parties is the important part. So how do we generate that prior?
One way is trust/personal connection. If you're having a conversation with a friend, you can usually expect they'll respond when you bring up a n... (read more)
I think I'll actually write this up as a corollary to For Better Commenting, Avoid PONDS.
This is partly why I’ve shifted in my posts on scholarship to just building on my own thoughts over a long time.[...]Hm, previously I had been assuming that this wouldn't work because readership isn't necessarily consistent, and because even if you do get the same readers they'd have lost the context of the previous posts.
This is partly why I’ve shifted in my posts on scholarship to just building on my own thoughts over a long time.
Hm, previously I had been assuming that this wouldn't work because readership isn't necessarily consistent, and because even if you do get the same readers they'd have lost the context of the previous posts.
Oh, to be clear, this is a response to having to some extent given up on hoping for deep conversations from readership. Instead, I just try to structure my research such that I have a feeling of responding to and building on my own line o... (read more)
When I try to choose between any of the plethora of options I could put time towards, they all just feel sort of "flat" and difficult to differentiate. I think this is also tied up with often finding it hard to be strategic when I settle down infront of my computer -- a sense of brain fog often settles in.tl;dr: I think in some sense organization is my hamming problem
When I try to choose between any of the plethora of options I could put time towards, they all just feel sort of "flat" and difficult to differentiate. I think this is also tied up with often finding it hard to be strategic when I settle down infront of my computer -- a sense of brain fog often settles in.
tl;dr: I think in some sense organization is my hamming problem
Any chance you'd be interested in a small "feel it out" collaboration on my project for studying how to study? It sounds like you're studying, and also trying to decide what to study, both of ... (read more)
That sounds like an amazing project! Do you think there's a chance that your stuck-ness is caused by you thinking your job and kids are more important than this video project? Maybe your Hamming project is being a parent and doing your day job, in which case you actually are working on your most important things?
Sounds like you want to create a software library for gameification (both implementing the features and increasing their addictiveness)?
It sort of sounds like you want to take the symmetric weapon of addictiveness, which the forces of doom have perfected and the forces of hope have neglected, and make it accessible to the good guys?
When I decided to pursue an EA career, I started taking classes and committed to grad school. This fall I'm moving to Michigan for an MS in bioengineering. Obviously that's not concretely relevant to your project.
However, in the... (read more)
The timescales to get a full feedback loop (think of an idea, try it out, analyze the results) often look like weeks to run an experiment, whereas in the digital world your code will compile in seconds.
I think this is superficially compelling. After all, if you read a biology method, often a single step will take hours, days, even weeks. By contrast, of course, a single line of code executes in next to no time.
However, it's not actually the right way to think about it. After all, there's no reason that we would compare a single physical action, or a single... (read more)
This is partly why I’ve shifted in my posts on scholarship to just building on my own thoughts over a long time. Having a readership, even if shallow, is motivating. I do occasionally get useful comments, sometimes via PM. I think reaching out to others for zoom or other back and forth goes a long way to establishing the trust needed to generate even a 45 minute conversation.
With commenting, I feel at each stage a concern that I won’t be responded to. I imagine others feel the same way. And this frequently turns out to be the case! Many times I’ve taken a ... (read more)
Another example might be democratic politics. Optimization is meant to produce a government and policies representing a majority view while protecting minority rights. Search is via voting, a procedure which is defined in a difficult-to-change constitution; politicians who are elected have an incentive to preserve the system that got them elected. Exploitation happens when actions that would better represent majority views and protect minority rights don’t necessarily get politicians elected. In fact, there are actions politicians can take to further decouple representation and rights-protection from voting.
Addiction might be another example. It starts with pursuing a feeling of relief. Search is imperfect, focusing on reward system responses in the brain rather than the feeling of relief originally sought. Drug makers and addicts focus on stimulating that reward center, rather than on creating/consuming drugs that might produce relief. Some actions that stimulate the reward system further decouple brain stimulus from relief, like self isolation or theft to get money for drugs.
This article on “Generic Generalizations” seems potentially relevant?
"We don't see the actual colors of objects. Instead, the brain adjusts colors for us, based on surrounding lighting cues, to approximate the surface pigmentation. In this example, it leads us astray, because what we are actually looking at is a false image made up of surface pigmentation (or illumination, if you're looking at this on a screen)."
Cultural concepts and the colloquial language of vision do not map very neatly onto the subjective experience of vision. Nor does the subjective experience of vision map neatly onto the wavelengths of light striking... (read more)
Thanks for the recommendation!
I love programming. Taught myself back in high school, and it's such a lovely self-reinforcing and immediately useful skill.
Now I'm back in school after 10 years working in music. This fall I'm attending an MS program in bioengineering, which I'm QUITE excited for. One of the things about studying biology is that, well, biology is amazing, but it's a lot harder to do even basic things, much less create anything original, at home. One of the coolest resources is rosalind.info, which has lots of bioinformatics practice problems. I haven't seriously looked into the biohacking community, but it's time.
I'll go first. I've been working for a year on a "studying how to study" project. There are a couple potentially high-impact experiments I could do.
I also need to figure out what i... (read more)
As a followup, it does seem like you could test this to some extent. Find out what textbook an upcoming year-long class uses. Take 10 days prior to the class for a retreat, during which you read the entire textbook. Then try to do the homework and exams with minimal review of the textbook, treating the class as a review of material you're already familiar with rather than a first brush with the content. Since textbook reading comprises the bulk of my studies, it seems possible that this would feel like a net time saving/deeper learning, but I'm not sure. Would be interesting to try it and see!